Politics

You know, it’s simultaneously humorous and very scary to me how people view me in discussions. When engaging conservatives, I’m apparently anti-religion (I’m not), or communist (I’m definitely not), or just extreme-liberal (I’m most definitely not). Yet when I hold my liberal friends to the same standard of discussion, I’m “hurting the cause” or “not a real Democrat” (okay, this one might be true) or a conservative in disguise. I work really hard to always hear both sides of discussions, and make sure people consider contrary viewpoints, because contrary doesn’t mean the same thing as “wrong.” Understanding where people are coming from when they disagree with us is a core building block of communication and problem solving. And while we may FEEL strongly about our opinions, it’s important to remember that they aren’t rendered into facts through that process.

People, I’m in the middle. I’m more middle of the road than about anyone I’ve ever met. Sorta like an Independent Libertarian, maybe. And I hold everyone to the same standard. When I see folks using hyperbole or false equivalencies to try and make points (badly), I point it out. When I see people being uncivil to each other, I try to be their conscience. And yet, from the middle of the road, you can see just how badly polluted the gutters are. You can’t disagree with someone without being “the enemy,” and you can’t be “the enemy” without being labeled the polar opposite, regardless of the accuracy of that label.

It’s very sad, in the end, because it’s a bad commentary on how polarized we’ve become, and how unable we are to just sit down and fucking talk to each other like human beings. And it’s a god damned shame. The problem is heavily connected to social media, where Facebook, Twitter, and company allow us to enter echo-chambers – isolating us from dissent, and reassuring us of our “rightness” on issues. The reality is, we’re just blocking out the challenges of critical thinking and problem solving by ignoring opposing viewpoints because we’ve grown lazy. We’ve gone so far backwards.

Lost in the Gray

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Kansas, Politics

You know how everyone’s talking about this law Brownback signed that puts judiciary funding in jeopardy based on how they decide to rule? You know how pretty much everyone talking about it says it’s a bad idea (since, obviously, it is)?

Imagine for one second the name “Brownback” was replaced with “Obama” in that discussion. Could you imagine the pitchforks and torches conservatives would be marching into DC with? The ink wouldn’t even be dry on the paper.

So why is it okay for Brownback to do it here?

A Matter of Perspective

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Culture, Politics

Just a thought for the day. I think there’s always room for healthy discussions on topics like evolution, or climate change, etc. Areas where there’s at least some disagreement about aspects, even when it’s from outliers or fringe research. That is what science is all about, after all. Asking and answering questions through evaluation, testing, and reporting. But one of the big problems is how intertwined politics has become with science, especially with regard for willful ignorance of the process, outright disbelief of results, and attempts to legislate (or coerce) scientific position.

Science has a lot in common with religion, as far as it comes to its involvement in social order. In the same way that religion and politics don’t mix, neither do science and politics. Science needs to go where the questions take it, and be answered and refined through a process that has literally worked for thousands of years. Legislators only job with regard to science, is to promote it. This is a directive specifically stated in the Constitution, as a matter of fact.

To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries. Article 1, Section 8, Clause 8; The Constitution of the United States of America

This clause outlines a specific action to be taken by Congress under the issue of General Welfare. The reason for that action is also clear though, that we, as a society, have an obligation to promote science and the process, no matter where those answers may take us. Science will be wrong occasionally, no doubt, but the process it goes through is well suited to allow and correct for that over time. Politicians would do well to remember this, and we would do well to remind them.

Politics and Science

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Current Events, Kansas

Some of you might have seen the MoveOn petition that’s going around to rally folks behind the idea of recalling Brownback. I’m not going to lie, I’d love to see him out. But the reality is, we had our chance barely three months ago, and failed. To petition it now is painfully useless, in my opinion. Even if the legislature cared about the petition, which they won’t, the votes certainly aren’t there for it. It’s a waste of energy and an exercise in futility. I’d much rather see us working together to find opportunities for victories in spite of him. That would be much more productive, and certainly more rewarding.

On the Brownback Recall Petition

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Culture

As I keep reading posts around Facebook and the web, there’s an emerging theme that I find greatly troubling. It’s a theme that partly inspired me to start this site. Increasingly, we hear these stories about “anti-vaxxers,” “climate deniers,” creationism, and the general trend of rebuking scientific discourse in this country. In all cases, there’s certainly room for healthy, genuine debate on various issues. But, that’s not what’s happening. The discussions are haphazard, sloppy, and filled with hypocrisy and irony – from both sides. Bias and generalizations take precedent over specifics and data. Individual, fringe, and questionable sources are trusted over broad spectrum research simply because it’s contrary.

I don’t blame the issues themselves, either. I like the thought that we can question virtually anything, and talk about it on the merits and value of the science and research behind it. No, what I see is much more scary in my opinion. What I see, I believe, is the result of us entering the second generation of an education system that is putting so much emphasis on teaching to tests, and is being used as a political battlefield. The result is that far too many people are becoming adults missing not just a fundamental understanding of the scientific method and how research takes place and is tested, evaluated, and agreed upon, but that they are simply not capable of critical thinking and problem solving. When people are saying “if all the scientists agree on it, I don’t trust it,” or “peer review processes are designed to squelch breaks in the consensus” – both sentiments I’ve read multiple times – we have a major problem at a basic level of understanding these processes.

In 66 years, we went from the first plane flight to landing on the moon. In the 46 years since then, we’ve stood almost still in so many ways. Sure, we’ve made many other advances in other areas, but I feel like that’s sort of symbolic of our backslide that will not get better until we address our education problem.

Scientific Literacy

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